Appearance, future bright for North City in Shoreline

In 1947, a group of business owners huddled together in search of a fitting moniker for their little stretch of real estate along 15th Avenue Northeast in what is now Shoreline.

Their choice, North City, intentionally evoked romantic images of the remote Alaskan north. There were no igloos or mukluks to be found, but allusions to such fancies proved successful for the growing business district.

Clearly, time has shifted the measures of proximity. Convenience, not the novelty of remoteness, draws people to North City in 2006.

In June, the neighborhood, bounded by Interstate 5 to the west, 25th Avenue Northeast to the east and meandering vertical tips that extend as far north as Northeast 196th Street and south to Northeast 160th Street, will celebrate the completion of a revitalization effort that stretched on through various stages for nine years.

"It began as a small beautification project," said Charlotte Haines, chairwoman of the North City Neighborhood Association. "We installed potted flowers. Then the businesses jumped in and began lobbying with the city to expand the project to a grander scale."

The city of Shoreline obliged by widening sidewalks, improving infrastructure and enhancing the area cosmetically with new signage, street lighting and benches. The goal was to improve pedestrian safety and increase commercial activity.

"When I moved in, the neighborhood was small, but busy," said Haines, who has lived in the same North City home for 44 years. "But like many areas do, we went through a bit of a lull. Now things are picking up again, and it's exciting."

Gretchen Atkinson, North City Business District representative, said the construction has been trying but will ultimately be worth the wait.

"The businesses here have endured a lot," said Atkinson, who owned a travel agency in North City for 27 years. "Any time you're tearing up water mains and putting in new fire hydrants, it's going to be terribly disruptive. Fortunately I think people can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Atkinson said 11 buildings have been remodeled and updated as part of the improvements. She also said the community participated throughout the decision-making process.

"Everyone worked together on this," she said. "It's been a long process. There were a lot of meetings and design groups to decide on things like the color of the new lampposts."

For the record, Atkinson said, they chose burgundy.

Haines said change is equally apparent in neighborhood demographics.

"We're seeing a big changeover in home ownership," she said. "There is a new generation of young families moving in because of the proximity to Seattle and because of the great school system."

The median price of a home in the North King County area, which includes North City, was $350,000 in March, up 12.18 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to figures compiled by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Neighborhoods, USA, a national organization that promotes neighborhood participation, awarded North City third place in the 2000 Neighborhood of the Year competition for their contributions to the revitalization effort.

"It depends on the issue," Haines said of community participation. "If it's something people care about, then they come out to the meetings in droves. Traffic is one of those issues."

Which is why North City is participating with other neighborhoods and the city of Shoreline in a study aimed at curbing traffic problems, a goal starkly juxtaposed against the mythical dogsleds that piloted growth during the neighborhood's quaintly contrived past.

Caroline and Ian Gaynes watch construction workers in North City finishing sidewalks in front of Japanese restaurant Ichi Bento while they wait for their food. (MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

North City (Shoreline)

Population: 6,434 .

Schools: The Shoreline School District, serving the communities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, has about 9,700 students.

Housing: Of 2,859 homes, 66.6 percent are owner-occupied; 28.4 percent are renter-occupied; and 4.9 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Seattle; Stevens Hospital, Edmonds

Public facilities: North City Park, Hamlin Park, Shoreline Library (King County Library System)

Seattle Times staff researcher Miyoko Wolf